A fossa resembles a cat, monkey, or weasel at first glance. Because it has cat-like claws, a monkey’s long tail, and weasel-like ears, it’s simple to mistake it for another species!
The fossa is closely related to the mongoose and civet, despite having some adaptive similarities with cats. It has a golden tinge to its coat, which is short and thick, with a lighter-colored belly. Over half of the animal’s length is made up by the fossa’s tail!
Because there aren’t many of them and they dwell in secluded, woodlanded regions, little is known about fossas. Since the 1830s, they’ve been a mystery to scientists. Fossas are Madagascar’s main predators, and they are found on the island nation’s east coast. The name is pronounced “foo-sa,” or sometimes just “foosh.”
A fossa is defined as follows: To learn more about Madagascar’s top predator, read on.
Fossas are members of the Eupleridae Family, a group of Madagascar-only carnivores that looks like cats, although they are not. The fossa’s tail may be up to 6 feet long and accounts for roughly half of its overall length.
Females range from 11 to 15 pounds, while males range from 13 to 22 pounds. Fossas may be found mostly at night near human settlements, which may be due to hunting and domestic dog rivalry. For food and to protect livestock from predation, they are pursued by humans.
Fossa Classification and Evolution
The Fossa, a Madagascar-only carnivorous species, is a mid-sized animal.
The Fossa is thought to have evolved from Mongoose-like forerunners who came to Madagascar from Africa up to 24 million years ago. It belongs to the Malagasy Carnivores group.
The Fossa is Madagascar’s biggest mammalian predator, in addition to being one of the island’s most ancient species and the biggest of its eight species.
The Fossa was thought to be a primitive kind of feline species until recently, owing to its cat-like look.
The Fossa is very uncommon and is currently considered to be endangered in its native habitat, owing to habitat destruction, similar to many of Madagascar’s unique animal species today.
Life in Madagascar
The solitary fossa spends its time in the trees and on the ground, and is a solitary animal. Both at night and during the day, it is active. Females reach adulthood after three years and give birth to two to four young every year.
Madagascar is home to over 30 species of lemur, as well as a large number of flora and fauna. A number of species are endemic to the island, including the fossa’s prey of choice.
Scientists believe that explorers would have been greeted by a peculiar collection of now-extinct animals, including lemurs the size of gorillas and a ten-foot-tall flightless bird, when they arrived on the island some 2,000 years ago.
Habitat loss is currently threatening fossas. The fossa’s only home, less than ten percent of Madagascar’s original intact forest cover, remains today.
Physical Features And Characteristics
The total length of a fossa can be up to 6 feet, including the tail. The animal’s tail can account for up to half of its overall length, measuring up to 30 inches in length.
Their faces look like otters, but their overall effect is that of cats, with their bulbous snouts and thick whiskers. The fossa has semi-retractable claws and fewer specialized tissue-shearing teeth, similar to some cats.
Climbers who know what they’re doing. They can get a better grip on branches thanks to their flexible ankle joints and enormous, hairless footpads, as well as their long tail acting as a balancing organ.
Habitat And Diet
Despite the fact that the fossa may weigh up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms), it is an inquisitive, nimble creature that moves with ease in its woodland habitat. The fossa balances and jumps from branch to branch with that extra-long tail.
It can climb down a tree headfirst thanks to retractable claws and flexible ankle joints! The fossa is just as comfortable running flatfooted like a bear along the ground, despite spending a lot of time in trees.
The uncommon fossa has yet to be fully understood. Because fossas were so difficult to locate in the wildernes, it was previously thought that they were nocturnal. According to recent research, fossas may nap during the day or hunt at night, depending on their mood.
On a daily basis, a fossa can range up to 16 miles (26 kilometers). Except during the breeding season, it is a solitary species.
The fossa is a fantastic hunter as a carnivore. From fish to birds, mice, and wild pigs, it preys on tiny-to-medium-sized creatures. The fossa, however, is Madagascar’s only predator capable of killing the largest lemur species. Lemurs are its primary food source.
The fossa may outmaneuver the quickest lemur if a predator is quicker than the lemur.
It can only jump, scurry, or dash, and its movements are barely discernible. The fossa is an ambush hunter that murders its prey with a bite from its razor-sharp teeth after using its forelimbs and claws to capture it.
Fossa Relationship with Humans
There would have been an incredible variety of unique fauna and flora when early explorers first arrived on Madagascar, many of which are now extinct.
Humans have exploited one of the world’s biggest islands since their arrival, leaving only 10% of the tropical forest coverage that formerly covered the nation.
Several species have suffered significant population declines as a result of land clearance for agriculture, such as palm oil plantations and the loss of unique tropical trees.
Farmers also pursue them (unfairly) because they believe they are a danger to people, and others pursue them in order to protect their animals.
It is Madagascar’s top predator and largest carnivore, known to feed on lemurs as well as the majority of other animals it can get its claws on.
The fossa has retractable claws and sharp catlike teeth, unlike mongooses and more like felines. Its skin is reddish brown, and its snout looks like a dog’s.
A lengthy tail is also included on the fossa, which comes in handy while hunting and manoeuvring amid the tree limbs. It moves so quickly through the trees that scientists have had trouble observing and studying it, and it can wield its tail like a tightrope walker’s pole.
Scent glands on the chest and under the base of the tail are used by fossas to communicate and track each other. Scent marking rocks, trees, or even just the ground. Their home ranges seldom overlap because they are solitary animals.
During breeding, the female mews to attract males; males howl and yowl as they compete for a female, which is the only time they seem to vocalize. A fellow fossa may be intimidated by a roar from a fossa. When nursing or close to their mother, fossa pups emit a purring sound.
When they are about four years old, fossas are ready to start their first family, which breeds from September to December.
The mother builds a nest in a location like an old termite mound, subterranean den, a rock crack, or the hollow of a tree when it is almost time to give birth, in December through March.
They’re born toothless and with their eyes closed, and there are two to six white-haired pups in a litter. She is the one who nurtures them on her own.
For the first few weeks of their lives, fossa pups are entirely reliant on their mother. When they are about two to three weeks old, their eyes start to open and their fur starts to darken. The pups take about four to five months to mature, and for another eight months, they are reliant on their mother.
The pups make a high-pitched noise called mewling to attract the mother’s attention. Until about two years of age, Fossa children grow at a rapid pace. After that, they carve out a little corner of their own and generally only connect with other fossas during the breeding season.
Lifestyle And Reproduction
Except during breeding season, fossas are mostly solitary creatures. Scent marking will separate male and female territories. Males will yowl and howl as they compete for the female, while females will mew to attract males.
The mating system of fossas is unusual. Males will congregate below a female who has taken up a tree. Males will battle and scream for the female’s attention. The female will copulate with up to six different males over a one-week period.
After this, a replacement female will come, mating with the assembled males and replacing the previous one.
From September through November, the mating season takes place. Two to four pups are born per litter during the three-month gestation period.
After 15 days, the pups are born blind and helpless, and they will blink open their eyes. The juveniles will stay with their mothers until they are 15 to 20 months old, remaining in the den until they are 4 to 5 months old.
Fossa Predators and Threats
The Fossa has no predators (with the exception of being eaten by a stray Crocodile) because it is Madagascar’s biggest natural predator.
Because they have hunted them in fear of their livestock and completely decimated 90% of the Fossa’s previously vast natural range, humans pose the greatest danger to them.
Deforestation has resulted in enormous decreases in the wild population numbers, both due to the logging of rare tropical timber and also clearing land for agriculture.
Fossas are predicted to have a continuing decline in population due to the need for wide solitary home ranges as well as their sluggish development.
The fossa, a large native Carnivore that ruled Madagascar for millions of years, was marooned on the island. With only about 2,500 fossas in the wilderness today, they are classified as a vulnerable species. Fossas do not have natural predators because they are one of the island’s top predators.
Nevertheless, 90 percent of Madagascar’s native forest habitat is thought to have vanished, and it is regarded a critical biodiversity hotspot. Lemurs require the forest to live, and there are 35 lemur species in the area.
Lemurs are the food source for fossas, and they rely on lemurs. In addition, introduced species such as civets compete with fossas for food. There are, however, illnesses that affect fossas, such as rabies, which was brought to the island by domestic dogs and cats.
Villagers see fossas as pests, competitors for resources, and predators of farm animals, which gives them another barrier: an bad reputation. Fossas blowing out campfires and murdering whole coops of fowls are told as bedtime stories.
The fossa has unfairly suffered as a result of these stories. Many individuals, however, are afraid of fossas and consider them harmful due to their fearsome reputation.
However, being shielded from export and commerce, the fossa has assistance. The fossa and other Madagascar animals are also aided by ecotourism.
The visits of individuals to this island provide revenue for the locals and urge them to protect the forests as they are, which encourages biodiversity.